Coronavirus or COVID-19 has put almost the entire world in lockdown, and international travel has come to a standstill. With so many lives at stake, it is no wonder that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has also had to come out with specific guidelines to prevent the spread of the disease while making it as easy as possible for everyone involved to get through the difficult times.
In this post, we cover the latest on how New Zealand Student Visa holders and applicants are impacted by the recent INZ measures.
Note that the epidemic management notice related to New Zealand immigration, covering student visas and more come into force on Thursday, April 2, 2020.
What is the Impact of Coronavirus on New Zealand Visa Extensions?
All New Zealand visitor, student and work visa holders who could not leave the country due to the COVID-19 situation, though their visa was to expire on April 1, 2020 or an earlier date are required to make an online application to get a new visa issued – INZ will be issuing interim visas to provide relief to such visa holders.
If you hold a visitor, work, student, interim or limited visa that is due to expire between April 9, 2020 and July 9, 2020 (including these dates) and are in New Zealand on April 2, 2020, INZ will automatically extend your visa to September 25, 2020. You will get an email from the INZ to confirm your visa extension.
You are advised to take note of the expiration date on your eVisa letter.
What Kind of Health Measures are Being Adopted in New Zealand for COVID-19?
New Zealand health officials are carefully screening all the travellers arriving in the country, and the ones considered high risk are being particularly assessed.
You must obey all rules that apply to self-isolation and abide by all the government’s health directives and measures. As per the new visa conditions brought into force to cope with COVID-19 situation, not following the instructions of a New Zealand Health Officer can lead to detainment and deportation.
Follow the Ministry of Health – Self Isolation Guidelines to get advice on how to self-isolate if you are a traveller, close relative, or a contact living with someone who recently travelled. Note that New Zealand is now at Alert Level 4, and the government has ordered everyone to stay home.
How Does COVID-19 Impact Existing New Zealand Student Visa holders?
As of now, you are not allowed to enter New Zealand even if you are on a valid student visa. INZ may, in exceptional circumstances, make exceptions to these border closure measures. However, the chances of you getting in are bleak as the whole purpose of closing the borders is to protect the country from importing any new coronavirus cases – and given that this virus has a long incubation cycle, you may not even show any signs of infection till much later. So, unless you have an extreme situation, just stay where you are.
Since all the New Zealand educational institutions are shut down due to the country’s COVID-19 Alert level, no student visa holders can attend in-person classes. You are expected to make arrangements for remote or online study. Get in touch with your education provider promptly to figure out the learning options they make available to you, so you do not miss your classes. A record of online attendance will be kept – INZ is helping the educational establishments get this working, ask your institute to get in touch with them if they need assistance for setting up remote education.
How is NZ Visa Processing Impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic?
INZ has shut down all its overseas offices for the time being to deal with the COVID-19 situation. Only a very small section of staff is working, and, that too just to deal with any priority COVID-19 related requests. INZ is prioritising its responses based on the New Zealand government directives and is in the process of creating a system to handle priority requests from health workers or deal with extreme situations.
What if You are Applying for Another Student Visa?
Students already in New Zealand who are making an application for another student visa must furnish receipt of tuition fee along with their application. INZ recommends you discuss any financial concerns related to your tuition costs with your education provider. In such cases, the INZ will consider each application based on the merits of the case, after consulting with your institute.
All student visa applications must prove availability of NZ$ 15,000 in funds for every year as INZ considers it critical that all international students be able to support themselves financially during their stay in New Zealand.
How are Overseas Students Impacted if They Defer Their Study or Withdraw Their Student Visa Application?
If you have informed your education provider about deferring your study to the later part of 2020 or early next year, and your student visa will be valid during this period, your institute is required to inform the INZ so they can update your file accordingly. Your student visa will remain valid, and the regular visa conditions shall be applicable.
However, if you decide to cancel your plans of studying in New Zealand, get in touch with your education provider. You can withdraw your student visa application if INZ has not yet processed it, and your visa fees will be refunded.
What Should You Do After the Travel Restrictions Get Lifted?
Once the travel restrictions have been lifted, contact the INZ to inform them of your travel plans to get your file updated appropriately. INZ will consider any requested visa condition changes on a case-by-case basis.
You will have the option of requesting modifications to travel dates mentioned on your student visa, or you can make a new visa application once you have better visibility on when you may wish to travel.
If you hold a valid student visa and have any specific questions related to your study plans, INZ recommends you get in touch with your education provider to sort them out.
These are unprecedented times, and INZ is reacting to the COVID-19 situation as it evolves. We, at Professional Visa solutions, are following the COVID-19 developments closely, and our licensed immigration advisers are standing by to guide you with your student visa concerns during these testing times. Book a free consultation with our immigration experts to know your options.